Offshore project proposals

An offshore petroleum project is a large-scale project where one or more petroleum activities are planned for the recovery of petroleum. These activities include the construction, commissioning, operations and decommissioning of facilities and pipelines as well as production drilling and any other activity undertaken for the recovery of petroleum. An offshore project would not include drilling for exploration or appraisal purposes, or other petroleum exploration activities such as seismic surveys. However, all petroleum activities including those covered by an OPP require an accepted environment plan prior to proceeding. 

In the early stages of the design phase of an offshore petroleum project, a proponent must submit an offshore project proposal to NOPSEMA for assessment.

NOPSEMA’s assessment of offshore project proposals provides an approval process for large-scale projects where the potential environmental impacts and risks of multiple activities conducted over the life of the project can be considered holistically. Under the Environment Regulations, the public will have the opportunity to review and provide comment during preparation of an offshore project proposal.

NOPSEMA will only accept an offshore project proposal once it has determined the plan meets all the requirements of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 (Environment Regulations).

The acceptance of an offshore project proposal does not provide the approval for an offshore petroleum activity to commence. Each offshore petroleum activity within a project must also have an accepted environment plan in place before it can begin.


Assessment process

Flowchart - Assessment for offshore project plans - April 2016

Any person (or company) planning to undertake an offshore project in Commonwealth waters is encouraged to contact NOPSEMA at to discuss the application of offshore project proposal requirements specific to their circumstances.

Due to the long lead times associated with offshore petroleum projects, a proposal can be submitted to NOPSEMA for assessment without a petroleum title in place. This differs from environment plans where a petroleum title (or application) is a requirement for submission.

An offshore project proposal is not required if the offshore project has already received an equivalent decision or approval from the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, for instance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).


Content requirements

To meet the criteria for acceptance, an offshore project proposal must demonstrate how the environmental impacts and risks of a proposed project have been identified and evaluated and how they will be reduced to an acceptable level. This includes explicitly addressing impacts and risks to protected matters under part 3 of the EPBC Act.

The Environment Regulations detail the content requirements for an offshore project proposal, they include:

  • a description of the project, including location and proposed timetable

  • a description of the environment that may be affected by the project, including details of the particular relevant values and sensitivities

  • a description of any feasible alternative to the project, or an activity that is part of the project

  • a description of the legislative and other requirements that apply to the project

  • details and an evaluation of the environmental impacts and risks of the project, appropriate to the nature and scale of each impact or risk

  • sets out environmental performance outcomes that demonstrate the environmental impacts and risks of the project will be managed to an acceptable level

  • a summary of any public comments made and how they were evaluated and addressed.